ARIZONA – An Arizona Muslim scholar has started a new graduate school for Islamic studies in the United States to educate the next generation of Muslim scholars and religious leaders who can serve their communities in same spirit of pluralism in which they were raised.
“In order for Islam to be sustained in the United States, and be meaningful and have a positive impact; and be meaningful to young people, to be passed from generation to generation, it has to be relevant, it has to be relevant to them,” Jihad Turk told ABC News.
“You can’t just be in a bubble, right? You have to want to be part of the fabric of the community in which you live.”
Turk grow up in Arizona in the 1970s where his Palestinian-American identity was not recognized.
“There wasn’t a lot of diversity. You were either Black, white or Mexican,” said Turk. “So people just assumed I was Mexican.”
Decades later, Turk has devoted himself to educating people on his faith. He spent years studying Islam, first independently at home in America, and later in Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“There wasn’t really any institution. There wasn’t really any pathway to really growing my faith,” Turk recalled.
“And so people who wanted to do that had to go to Syria, had to go to Egypt, had to go to Islamic University in Medina [Saudi Arabia] or Malaysia or Pakistan or somewhere else.”
The lack of centers for higher study of Islam in the US forced him overseas. This was a fact he sought to change.
Therefore, he has established and now runs Bayan Claremont, the first graduate school for Islamic study in the United States.
“I have four kids, my oldest is 16,” said Turk.
“It’s an important part of what I’m doing as a Muslim parent, my wife and I. You know, how to have a well-adjusted American-Muslim identity, and what role community plays.”